Throwback Thursday: The Family Car – Then and Now

This latest installment of our Throwback Thursday: Then and Now series looks at the family car, which has gone through a number of transformations since the 1950’s.

The 1950’s and 60’s

Boomers who didn’t grow up with the station wagon surely knew at least one family who owned one. Previously regarded as commercial vehicles, sales of station wagons took off in the 1950’s until by the end of the decade it was firmly ensconced as the family vehicle of choice, peaking in popularity in the 1960’s.

1966 Ford County Squire

1966 Ford County Squire

Most wagons were “fully loaded” with the basic price in 1960 of about $2,600.

Safety features were almost non-existent, mostly consisting of the driver throwing her right arm across the seat to prevent a child from careening into the dashboard.

In 1956 lap seatbelts and padded dashboards were available as options and became mandatory in new cars in 1966. Seatbelts were unpopular and not widely used until legislated by law – 1976 in Ontario, and as late as 1987 in Alberta and PEI.

The 1980’s

The Chrysler mini van was introduced in 1984. It was instantly popular and become the vehicle of choice for family transportation.

1984 Plymouth Voyager

1984 Plymouth Voyager

It was said that the mini van become popular because people were trying to escape the “mom-mobile” image of the station wagon they grew up with. Average price was about $13,000.

Present day

Ironically, now the minivan is considered the “mom-mobile,” and style conscious buyers are swarming to SUV’s and crossovers instead.

2015 Ford Escape

2015 Ford Escape

Safety features have increased considerably with front and side airbags, ABS, traction control. All child passengers must be secured in an approved child safety seat.

Other optional features include pushbutton start, rearview camera, parking and anti-collision sensors, media centre and GPS.

Basic prices range from $22,000 to $33,000.

Your turn: What kind of car did your family have when you were growing up? What was the first “family car” you bought once you had kids of your own?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline on May 7, 2015 at 4:32 am

    I hope they bring back the side paneling!:) As a kid growing up I remember us having station wagons, a van and a dodge Ram, I guess that was one of the first SUVs. Our first family car was a mini-van. A Honda odyssey. Such a good car.

  2. Young Millennial on May 7, 2015 at 4:39 am

    The car of the people – Volkswagen Passat station wagon….2 different generation when I was growing up in Europe.

    When my parents recently had another kid, they switched to a Honda Fit. Passats are not that cheap for the masses in Canada. I don’t have kids, but I will probably stick to my Accord.

  3. Kurt on May 7, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Growing up we had a wagon, then a minivan. Now that I have one kid, we have a Ford Escape. Trying to sell the wife on an Excursion…

  4. aB on May 7, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Station wagon with bench seating.. I remember my parents telling me I was too big because I could reach the pedal, so I couldn’t sit in the front row, middle seat anymore.

    Currently, I have a Honda Fit, with 2 car seats in the back.

  5. Stephen @ on May 7, 2015 at 11:25 am

    We had a station wagon when I was growing up in the mid to late 80s. There weren’t too many of them left on the road in those days but I loved it as a kid because of the backwards bench seat in the back (even though it made me feel motion sick).

    We’ve got a Hyundai Sante Fe SUV for shuttling our own family around these days and I love it.

  6. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on May 7, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    I still remember the campers that had the window at the front (near the top bunk) overlooking the top of the truck (and the road). We used to ride in the camper while my parents drove the truck. It was cool being able to sleep on the top bunk of the camper with the window there to see the occasional view and my parents loved not being nagged by us asking “how much longer?”. These days that would be strictly illegal

Leave a Comment

Join More Than 10,000 Subscribers!

Sign up now and get our free e-Book- Financial Management by the Decade - plus new financial tips and money stories delivered to your inbox every week.